nonprofit board chairs

Starting To Improve The World

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."  Anne Frank

Today's Big Question: How are you helping to improve the world? Maybe not the WHOLE world, but your world, or the world of others?

I really want to know! 

What social causes do you support? Are you teaching tolerance or fighting intolerance? What acts of kindness or generosity do you perform on a regular basis? Which community events do you participate in? How do you nurture your employees? How do you nurture yourself? 

You really can start now- without waiting a single moment- to improve the world!

The Five Pillars of Personal Leadership

"The greatest source of transforming the world is in transforming yourself."

This great quote is from a great podcast I had the opportunity to listen to the other day, with Professor Hitendra Wadhwa of Columbia Business School.  The 17-minute podcast focuses on personal leadership, with an emphasis on the personal qualities needed to become a true leader.

The pillars that Dr. Wadhwa identifies are:

  • Purpose or Drive: what compels you to do what you do -there has to be something that propels you forward;
  • Wisdom or Mastery: what you contribute to the conversation in knowledge, skills, or experience;
  • Interface between you and the world:  the emotional quotient you bring to your work- kindness, empathy, compassion;
  • Self-realization: your core insights - you don't need others' approval because validation comes from within; and
  • Growth: your potential to learn and discover.

There's also a Q+A part of the podcast, where Dr. Wadhwa gets into how someone knows they are a true leader, and how leaders keep growing (hint: surround yourself with inspiration). 

A final insight: positive change in your self and your relationships creates a concurrent change in structures. So if you are looking to create a great organization, look inside first.

Enjoy listening to the podcast, and please be in touch if I can help you become a better leader!

The Most Important Question

OK, here we go. It's almost the end of February and I've been asking some Big Questions. This week's is : What is the most important question you have ever asked yourself?

This is a tough one for me to answer. I ask myself a lot of questions, all the time. Most of them are rhetorical (Are you serious? What am I doing here?).  But one of the more common questions I ask myself is: What will I learn from this? Sometimes I ask this question before I decide whether or not to do something, and sometimes it's used as an evaluation tool. Success or failure, it's important for me to figure out what the experience has taught me.

How about you? What important questions do you ask yourself? I really want to know! 

 

Note to Board Members: Ask the Right Questions!

One of the key responsibilities of board members is to ask the right questions of the organization they serve. By doing this, and understanding how the answers shape the organization's impact, they can help the organization succeed.

What are the right questions for board members to ask? Let's start with these:

  • What is our organization's mission?  Ideally, all board members should be able to quote and/or clearly articulate the mission, vision and values of the organization.
  • What are our key programs and services, and who do they serve?  Understanding and even experiencing what the  work of the organization actually is can provide valuable insight to board members.
  • What is my role in the sustainability of the organization?  Yes, we definitely want board members to understand what their financial commitment is (and, yes, there needs to be a financial commitment), but we also want board members to contribute by being ambassadors of the organization and sharing their enthusiasm with others.

If you as a board member aren't asking these questions, you should be. And if you are a board chair or CEO, you should be encouraging the asking of these questions and providing the answers so that board members are clear about their role on the board.

Please be in touch with me to discuss your board and how board service can have maximum impact.

 

What Do Nonprofits Need to Succeed?

Here’s some daunting news from a new survey of more than 3000 nonprofit leaders, staff, board members and donors:  Almost 80% of nonprofits struggle with leadership and management issues. Even worse, only 11% are prepared for growth and optimal impact.

William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker conducted the study, “The Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector,” to serve as the basis of their new book Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector, which will be released this month. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil SocietyStanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), GuideStar, and BoardSource.

Meehan and Jonker’s research on successful organizations suggest that there are seven essential components of strategic leadership that are needed for maximum impact:

·        Mission – a focused, defined statement of purpose;

·        Strategy – a strategic framework based on mission;

·        Impact Evaluation – a way to measure impact;

·        Insight and Courage – a commitment to considered and fearless decisionmaking;

·        Organization and Talent – the right people to move the organization forward;

·        Funding – the ability to build diverse and sustainable revenue relationships with the right donors; and,

·        Board Governance – a strong and effective board to provide direction.

Organizations that aspire to be high-impact need to develop strength in all seven of these areas, Meehan and Jonker said, and a deficiency in any one area can prevent an organization from achieving its goals.

According to the survey, the most common challenges for organizations are:

  • Over 50% struggle with fundraising and another 50% struggle with impact evaluation;
  • More than half struggle with weak board governance;
  • 27% demonstrate “weakness in strategic management,” such as, organization and talent, funding, or board governance, despite exhibiting strength in other areas

Further complications come from leadership and staff indicating that they don’t think their organization sets clear expectations for performance, rewards high performance appropriately, or provides consistent feedback on performance.

To read the complete study results, visit http://www.engineofimpact.org/survey

What Does the Board Member of Your Dreams Look Like?

No two boards are exactly alike, so their desired board members need to be different as well. Finding the right board members is a process that takes time, and needs to be closely related to your organization’s needs.

In a fundraising webinar I participated in this week, Darian Heyman talked about three kinds of boards:

In Name Only: Boards where people lend their name, often so an organization can get off the ground and start to become credible. These board members might show up, but they aren’t going to move the organization forward in a significant way.

Working: Board members take the place of staff in young, evolving organizations. You can work on “big vision” strategy with this type of board, but their primary role is in helping the organization survive.

Fundraising: Board members are active in helping the organization grow in a capacity-building way. These board members have the ability to transform an organization through their giving.

You can see that each of these boards requires different types of board members to be successful. However, all boards need to cultivate board members who play one or more of these roles:

- Ambassador: builds relationships that can be beneficial to the organization

- Advisor: provides guidance as the organization grows

- Advocate: serves as a cheerleader for the organization

- Asker: raises money

Board recruitment can’t be accomplished successfully until you have scripted the vision for your future. It’s important to involve current board members in this strategic process, and use the vision to help identify others who want to join you.

As your organizations matures and changes, your board member needs will also shift. Getting the right people on the bus, as Jim Collins says, is essential to your organization’s fulfilling its potential. Finding the right people isn’t always easy, but taking the time to find the right people is time well spent.

Please be in touch with me to talk about your ideal board member, and how we can build the board of your dreams together.

Board Size: Does It Matter?

A new report from BoardSource, "Leading With Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices" includes findings on board size, which has declined steadily over the past 20 years.

The size of a board affects how its work is conducted, and different sizes work for different organizations. However, BoardSource believes it's possible for a board to be either too small or too large.

In general, it recommends that there be at least 5 board members, regardless of what an organization's bylaws require. Otherwise, the organization may not have enough skills and expertise to draw upon when making decisions. In addition, a board that's too small may have difficulty supporting and overseeing the CEO. And, finally, a too-small board might not have enough reach to create a strong fundraising network.

A board that is too big may find it challenging to have fruitful conversations utilizing all of its members. In this situation, many important organizational issues may get shifted to the executive committee, which can create a disconnect. Board members can end up feeling as if their participation is not values, and- even worse-  the board's ability to govern may be adversely affected.

The bottom line from BoardSource is that every organization has its own particular needs for governance, so board size needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. And of course, organizational needs change with growth, so board size needs to be a topic that gets discussed and planned for.

Please be in touch with me to discuss your board needs!

 

#MyLazyBlog

This week, I'm spotlighting a great post from Joan Garry with a list of the ten nonprofit blogs you should be following. Maybe mine will make the list someday...a girl can hope!

http://www.joangarry.com/10-nonprofit-blogs/

Tell Me A Story

 

One of the most important aspects of an organization’s success is the quality of the stories it tells. Your narrative, told in a straightforward way, stating your mission in a concise way, and providing insight into your impact is the best way to build your community of dedicated staff, board, volunteers, donors, and stakeholders.

Your narrative should be reflected in everything you do- internally as well as externally- to communicate with your community. Your website, donor mailings, newsletters, social media posts, and public speaking messages should all be presented in a way that tells a story and draws more people in to tell their stories as well.

In order to do this successfully, your narrative needs to be clear, consistent, and strong. You and everyone in your organization (and I mean EVERYONE) need to be able to tell your story to everyone and anyone, with the conviction that it has the potential to build a community, expand your reach, and change lives.

Building your narrative should be a strategic part of your growth plan. Starting with developing an “elevator pitch” and then honing it into a comprehensive “brand” is the ultimate goal. Once you have your narrative, make sure everyone knows it. Make sure everyone feels comfortable telling the story in their own authentic way. Adapt the narrative to be appropriate and targeted to your various audiences.

If you want to learn more about how to build your narrative, let’s talk.

How to Think

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”  Peter Drucker

My last blog post about the “Schultz Hour” got me thinking even more about the subject of introspection. Research shows that people who practice self-reflection perform better, are more productive, and are happier than those who don’t.

Giving yourself a chance to invest in conscious thoughts can even make you a better leader. So how do you do it?

There are many ways to train yourself to detach and just THINK. Try this: First, schedule a time to do this regularly- at least weekly. Sit in a quiet place with no distractions. Turn off your phone. Start to clear your mind. Try some deep breaths. Then ask yourself some questions: How am I handling (or not handling) a difficult situation or relationship? How could I have been more effective in that meeting the other day? Am I ignoring things that I shouldn’t? How do I help my team achieve their goals?

If you enjoy writing, try journaling your thoughts. If you think better when outdoors, go for a walk.

Focus on one question at a time. See what comes up. Trust your gut- if you let it, it will lead you in a direction that can help clarify your thoughts.

If you feel stuck or frustrated trying to practice self-reflection, ask for help. Use a friend or colleague whose judgement you trust to talk things out with. Then try it one your own again.

Good luck! Contact me for more on how you can become a better leader.

What Do Great Board Members Bring to the Table?

How do you know when you have the right board members sitting at the table? Hopefully, you have members who already have these qualities. If not, you can use this as part of your cultivation and development process.

Enthusiasm: They demonstrate a passion for the cause, a willingness to act as an ambassador for their organization, and an ability to inspire excitement in others.

Education or Experience: They possess knowledge and skills that can help your organization succeed.

Expectations: They present with the attitude that their skills and abilities will be respected and utilized appropriately, that they will be encouraged in their efforts to contribute to the growth and advancement of the organization, and that they will behave ethically and professionally.

Energy: They show the stamina to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities and can energize others.

Good luck! I can help you create a board that works for you. Please be in touch with me, ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

It's Time for Your Yearly Physical

It's Spring! And it's time for your checkup. Your organizational checkup. Time for a peek under the hood to assess how healthy it is. Here we go...

First, do you have a good CEO/Board Chair relationship? Joan Garry believes that this is the single most important sign of organizational health. Do you both understand your roles? Are you partners in your strategic analysis of the organization?

Does your organization have a strong strategic plan? It doesn't have to be a written plan. It doesn't have to be "fancy." But strategy does need to be a vital part of what the Board develops and oversees.

Is there a culture of philanthropy? Does everyone in the organization- Board, staff, volunteers, stakeholders- participate in supporting the organization through fundraising and telling the story of your organization's impact?

Speaking of storytelling, does everyone in the organization know how to articulate the mission, vision and values? By doing this, they can communicate your  organization's impact in transformative ways.

Is your staff motivated and engaged? Are they working well as a team and as individuals? Are they happy?

Finally, do you have sustainability and succession plans in place? Creating a sustainable future involves setting both short and long-term goals and diversification of resources. It also includes leadership cultivation, which is why a succession plan is essential.

Asking yourself these questions, and being honest about where you might need some improvement, is the key to your organizational health. Start now!

Please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com for help with making your organization the healthiest it can be!

To Do or To Be? That is the Question

This is an important post, and it's not written by me. It's one from Vu Le of Nonprofit with Balls, and it's a MUST READ.  It's about the culture we have developed that's based on the "what do you do?" question and why we need to shift into a "who are you?" culture in order to fully embrace the diversity and skills that people possess. I can't really say more, except that you need to read this blog right now.

http://nonprofitwithballs.com/2017/03/why-we-need-to-stop-asking-what-do-you-do/

Enjoy!

What Do Great Leaders Need?

No one is born knowing everything there is to know about leadership. Much of what makes a great leader has to be learned. There's a difference between leadership skills (what you know) and leadership attributes (who you are). A great leader needs both. Let's focus on leadership attributes - those qualities that seem to be inborn in many great leaders:

  • Passionate: about mission, about strategic decisions, about life
  • Authentic: building trust; being honest, genuine and forthcoming
  • Curious: engaging people by asking questions and listening to the answers
  • Humorous: laughter at self and situations
  • Fearless: trying new solutions and thinking creatively about things
  • Joyous: expressing happiness

 

There are most certainly more of these attributes. If you have an attribute to contribute to this discussion, please reach out to me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com

 

How To Hire a Great Consultant

Need help growing your organization? Want your board or staff to function more effectively? Thinking of hiring a consultant? Do you know how to find the right person for your team? A great consultant:

  • Has self-confidence: they should approach their work with a high degree of certainty about the direction that work should take
  • Has a good understanding of the business: they have a grounding in both practical and theoretical knowledge
  • Has skills that are adaptable: they can apply their skills across many different situations and can deliver innovative ideas and strategies
  • Has the ability to explain and simplify: they can make complex problems and issues understandable, without jargon
  • Can think on their feet: they can come up with more than one solution to a problem, and can improvise when challenged
  • Has good listening skills: they ask questions and listen carefully to the responses, in order to fully understand their client's needs
  • Gains the client's trust: they work at developing a real relationship with the client and the organization
  • Remembers who comes first: THE CLIENT ALWAYS COMES FIRST!

 

If you are thinking of engaging a consultant to help you and your organization find the best path, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com

Be Present

"The most important person is the one you are with in this moment."               ~Leo Tolstoy How many times have you been sitting at the table or desk, trying to have a conversation about something, only to have the other person scrolling through their phone and not paying close (or any) attention to what you're saying? Or - even worse - how many times have you been the one not listening?

It's not just the pull of the smartphone that distracts us. There are too many opportunities for our focus to be drawn away from our colleagues and companions. I know I'm not alone in feeling disappointed and sometimes really irritated when it happens to me, and I regret the times I've made others feel that way with my behavior.

So this week, the post is about BEING PRESENT: giving others your undivided attention, listening, looking them in the eye and responding, and communicating directly with them.

A couple of suggestions on how to accomplish this:

  • At work, encourage a "no devices" policy at meetings, except if needed for a presentation or note-taking.
  • At home, reserve meals for conversation, without technology.
  • When out with friends, try playing the game where the first person to reach for their phone during the meal pays for everyone.
  • If you're the one trying to get someone's full attention, ask for it in an assertive way: "I have something I want to talk with you about. Can you put your phone away for a few minutes while we have this conversation?"

 

Now put down your phone and talk to someone! Good luck with being present!

 

Self Improvement

"There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving - your own self."        ~Aldous Huxley What does "self improvement" mean to you? What are you thinking about doing in 2017 to improve yourself?

For me, I will be spending a (scheduled in advance, ideally) percentage of my time reading, participating in webinars, watching TED Talks and other videos, and connecting with my colleagues to widen my world.

I'll be learning new things from my clients, who always manage to teach me how to be a better person through my work.

I hope to travel to new places to expand my view of the world, meeting new people along the way.

And I'm looking forward to applying all that I see, do and learn to making my personal and professional life richer and more meaningful.

How about you?

Let me know what your plan is, at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com. I'd love to join you!

'Tis the Season for Board Giving

The title of this post is not entirely correct: it is ALWAYS the season for board giving! However, since many organizations are running their year-end campaigns, board giving is often included at this time. Board chairs and leaders have been known to complain that they can't get their boards to give. It's considered integral to the "culture of philanthropy" to have board members contribute to the support of their organizations. If they don't do it, how can we expect others to do it? The board should set an example for staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders.

How can 100% board giving be accomplished?

What seems to work best is for there to be a clearly articulated policy for board giving that is encouraged and enforced throughout the year. Yes, there can be a "give-get" policy or a sliding scale contribution, but it's most important for whatever policy there is to be documented and monitored regularly, and for all incoming board members to be aware of the policy, ideally as part of their job description. It is the board chair's responsibility to communicate with each board member about their responsibility, and to offer opportunities for training that support their efforts.

For more information on how to work with boards in creating a culture of philanthropy, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

Good luck!

 

 

 

Making a Better You

I hadn't intended to post anything this week, thinking that people would be too preoccupied with the election to pay attention. But then I came across a post from Lolly Daskal that's a list of "10 TED talks to make a better you," and I just couldn't resist. There are talks on the list from Brene Brown, Tony Robbins, John Wooden, Dan Gilbert and many (well, 6) more fabulous people.

Her bottom line? That your life gets better when you get better.

Have fun watching!